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German Legal Expertise in the Middle East since 1981

Iraqi Health Care

Guiding Principle

This Article speaks about the current Iraqi health care and the question about privatization.

A. Introduction

Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world and a huge budget for the health sector. USD 7.2 billion is to be spent in Iraq’s healthcare sector during 2013 alone.[1] Despite that, the health care service is very poor and there is no real infrastructure in this field. Apart from the fact that well-equipped hospitals and clinics are limited, Iraqi people are currently suffering a big financial burden for surgeries and medicines. This bad situation in Iraq raises the demand of a restructuring of the health care sector.

B. Health Care in Iraq

Iraq’s health care services have deteriorated significantly with the shift in government, the embargo in the 1990s and then the negative effect of the war and the instability that followed.

In Iraq, health care service is free. Article 31 of the Iraqi Constitution of the year 2005, includes state-guaranteed healthcare for every Iraqi citizen.

Article 31:

Every citizen has the right to health care. The state takes care of public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and medical institutions.

However, the governmental hospitals are not well equipped and there is a shortage of necessary medication. Another problem for the current Iraqi health care system is that many doctors work in governmental hospitals at day time and have their own private clinics where they work in the evening. In practice the doctors refer their patients to their private clinics to offer them the necessary treatment which is missing in the governmental hospitals. Poor patients who cannot pay for their treatment in private hospitals have often to take long waiting lists for treatment in governmental hospitals. Wealthier patients, who can afford the costs of treatment, might either go to private hospitals or go to neighboring countries. State officials and the upper class often get their treatment in Europe and the United States. An equal and good medical treatment for all Iraqi citizens is missing.

C. Privatization

Some people in Iraq see the key to a better health care system in Iraq in the privatization of the health care sector and by giving way to private insurance companies like in Europe and some other Arab countries. Others reject this plan as they consider it a serious threat to the current Iraqi health care system which guarantees free medical services also for people with a low income.

They fear that the privatization of the health sector would lead to the collapse of health care services for people with low-income because they simply will not be able to pay for insurance companies.

As a matter of fact, the current Iraqi health care system is not providing the necessary aid for Iraqi people. Experts see the reason for this misery in the widely spread corruption in the country. The Iraqi government spends billions of dollars for contracts in the health care sector. The results are, however, not visible for the citizens.

D. Health Insurance

Health insurance is an insurance against the risk of incurring medical expenses among individuals. A health insurance like the European model e.g. is provided through a contract between the insurance company and an individual or his/her sponsor (e.g. an employer or a community organization). The contract can be renewable (e.g. annually, monthly) or lifelong in the case of private insurance, or be mandatory for all citizens in the case of national plans. The insured has to pay a monthly fee in order to enjoy the rights and benefits of the health system. In case someone cannot afford to pay the monthly fees for the insurance company, this will be covered by the government.

Due to important changes in the government’s financial and economic policy, the government of Central Iraq accepted the establishment of Iraqi private insurance companies because of local and international business trends.

E. List of Authorized Insurance Companies in Iraq

The Iraqi Insurance Diwan (“IID”) was established under the Insurance Business Regulation Act 2005 as an independent body which sets the policy and procedures for the regulation of the insurance industry. Below is the list of authorized insurance companies in Iraq registered with the IID:

  • National Insurance Company
  • Iraqi Insurance Company
  • Iraqi Reinsurance Company
  • Dar Al Salaam Insurance Company
  • Al – Ameen Insurance Company
  • Ahlia Insurance Company
  • Al – Hamra’a Insurance Company
  • Gulf Insurance Company
  • Shatt Al Arab Insurance Company
  • Union International Insurance Company
  • Kurdistan Insurance Company
  • Alkhair Insurance Company

F. Summary:

The health care system in Iraq is still not well developed despite the fact that the Iraqi government dedicates big funds for this sector. The political situation and the corruption in the country affect a development. A considerable investment of private sector contractors (national and international) working within the health sector are required in the Iraqi health care system.

However, the implementation of a private insurance system would need resources and expertise which are to be gained gradually.

April, 2013 Sali Jumah
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Abu Dhabi Office

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